Not a Saint: How I Bought Con Man Kevin Trudeau’s Belongings
March 18, 2014
Kevin Trudeau doesn’t have very good taste. I know because I just got back from his house in Ojai, California. Or rather, the house he once owned. His remaining worldly possessions were today sold in an estate sale to repay, by court order, those he scammed with his #1 bestselling book, The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. No one knows exactly who “they” are, but they’re clearly the establishment, people who run our lives from corporate offices we will never see, churning out pills and products and telling our doctors, politicians, and bankers how to turn us into profitable suckers. “They” don’t want us to know a lot of stuff, as evinced by Trudeau’s other book titles: Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About and Debt Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About. But, unfortunately for Kevin, it turns out “they” don’t want us to know some of the things in his books because they are nonsense and can hurt or maybe even kill you. For example:
All non-prescription, over the counter and prescription drugs and medications of any kind absolutely, 100% are proven to lead to weight gain and obesity. All non-prescription, over the counter and prescription drugs and medications of any kind absolutely, 100% cause illness and disease. This is proven.
Actually, no, it’s not. While weight gain is a common side effect of many drugs, it is by no means true of every drug, and even those drugs which do cause weight gain in some patients don’t make everyone overweight. But he goes on:
Every time you take even the smallest amount of even the most common medications you are causing severe damage to the human body. It is advised... that you avoid any and all non-prescription, over-the counter medications, and prescription drugs.
As Kevin found out, when you say things like this, knowing full well that people may stop taking their insulin or bipolar medicine or any number of life-saving medications, and you have no evidence to back up your claims, sometimes you end up in prison.
Mr. Trudeau ended up behind bars last November with a $37.6 million fine to pay back the American public for peddling potentially lethal nonsense. At first, Trudeau claimed he was too broke to pay up, but when the FTC pointed out that he had recently spent $900 at a liquor store, $920 on cigars, and $180 on a haircut (twice!), a federal judge incarcerated Trudeau, saying “This is not an infomercial. You can’t talk your way out of this.” Since then, Trudeau has been forced to liquidate his possessions, including his Ojai home (listed at $1.2 million) and everything in it.
When I showed up at 8 a.m. on a rainy Friday to pick through the remains of the TV pitchman’s life, I was surprised at the modest size of his house. Although Ojai is a pricey vacation town (its proximity to the ocean and wine country, matched with a country aesthetic, make it an enviable location), the house itself is a single story with three bathrooms, perhaps owing to Trudeau’s on-again, off-again fortune. Maybe he never had time to scale up between paying fees and getting the FTC off his back. I joined five cars’ worth of bargain hunters. My number: 36.
As the group waited under a rain-shielding cabana, I listened in on a conversation between three local men who knew Trudeau.
“That jury only deliberated a few minutes,” said a young brunette gentleman I’ll call Ted, waving his umbrella about nervously, “And then they just send him off to prison.”
“Yeah, it’s really not fair. I mean, he wasn’t a saint, but who did he really hurt?” his friend replied.
Actually, a lot of people. One consumer reviews site with 812 independent reviews of Trudeau’s wares reveals 90% of reviewers gave his products one or two stars (78% and 12%, respectively), and nearly all of the reviews call his business a “scam.” As for “actually hurting” someone, it would be hard to tell how many people Trudeau talked out of taking their medicines or seeing their doctors, especially if they are dead.
“Did you know him?” I interrupted, startling Ted.
“Yes...” he said. Then he turned back to his friends and lowered his voice. “Unfortunately, they can sentence him on criminal charges intended for real bad guys,” he said under his breath.
This tendency to trail off when people spoke of Trudeau would be repeated all morning.
“I mean, he just gave his opinion....”
“Some people think he was saying vitamins cure everything, but he says that wasn’t the point, so....”
“I read the books and I thought they were interesting, but I don’t know. I’m not a doctor or anything....”
“And really, who did he hurt?”
I wanted to tell them who; that Trudeau was a vulture, preying on people at their most vulnerable, and it was possible that the “advice” he was dishing out could kill them. And the harm wasn’t just in getting people to forgo real medical care; some of it was direct. The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About recommends colonic irrigation fifteen times in one month, using additional “colon cleanse” products, and performing heavy metal cleansing (also known as chelation therapy) at home. All of these suggestions can carry heavy consequences and are of dubious benefit.
A few of us slowly trickled inside. I peaked through the front door at the lavish interior: faux stone archways, peach and crimson draperies hanging from the high ceilings, and two enormous chandeliers.
“It’s like being in the Sistine Chapel,” said one man as he exited, carrying what he claimed was a 17th century Mong vase he bought for $35. All of us watched this millionaire’s belongings pour out of his home, one piece at a time. People shuffled to their cars through the rain, bits of his life in their hands.
“Too bad he had such bad taste,” said one collector. He drove off with a lighting fixture bouncing in his passenger seat.
Finally, at 11:45 a.m., it was my turn to go in. I pushed through the jealous crowd. Everyone interrogated me.
“What number are you?!”
“36!” I snapped. In just a few hours, I’d gone native. I was ready to hunt for bargains, clean up the refuse that this huckster left in the wake of his crimes. Walking through the front door was like stepping into a luxury furniture store. Nothing looked lived in, the taste was grotesque, but it oozed wealth.
A baby grand piano sat in the corner, looking as if it had never been played. Gold and pastel rugs hung on the walls and lay on the floors. Paintings took up any extra wall space, the kind of paintings that depict nothing and are about nothing but point out that the owner has everything.
The living room had several large pieces of art stacked on the floor and two huge, puffy gold couches.
“Don’t put your things on the couches! My GOD!” screamed one of the attendants as someone tried to rearrange their loot on a cushion.
To one side of the living room was a bar area, complete with Waterford crystal, expensive alcohol, and fancy cocktail accoutrement. I wondered what these things were really worth. The estate sale workers seemed to be pricing everything quite high. We were all here for bargains, slashed prices on a millionaire fraud’s ill-gotten gains. But they wanted almost as much as each item was worth. And with all the profits going to the cheated masses, it was hard to argue with their logic. Even if, in a small way, we were helping Trudeau meet his legal obligations.
The kitchen was full of nice cookware and dinner settings. For someone who hocked natural cures and constantly promoted gadgets, the kitchen was stocked with fairly ordinary wares, except perhaps for an “e-mug,” which read ENERGY-ENERGY-ENERGY around its base. In one corner of the kitchen, a small stack of items had been neglected by the other shoppers. I pawed through it and found a pair of sunglasses, clearly Kevin’s. I had seen the style on him before, and they were a pricey Italian brand. I picked them up for my friend Ross and asked the attendant to name a price.
“Um, $10,” she said. Jackpot. Finally, I found something whose worth they didn’t know. I was doing it right!
Next was the garage, full of board games, mugs, and other knickknacks not good enough for the house.
“Ah ha!” I thought, “So this is an infomercial star’s house.”
Juicers, food processors, electronic redistribution machines (what?) and other as-seen-on-TV gadgets were strewn about, many of them unused. Even still, for how Trudeau made his living, the bounty seemed small, only ten or twenty items. The rest were ordinary: cups and glasses, a box of tea, some games, an enormous George Foreman Grill.
Another room, this one more of a sitting area. It had a smoker’s den feel and contained cigar boxes, statues of dogs, and other manly gestures. A pool table was in the next room. I started to wonder if this really was the last of the Trudeau fortune. It certainly added up to much more than my life savings, but the place was virtually empty. A lamp here, a cigar box there, and more art than anyone could ever want, but except for a few teddy bears, no signs of real life. It was a mansion for a ghost.
The bedrooms were next, and they were sadly empty but for the usual beds, nightstands, and maybe a tea set or Juicy Couture purse. Wandering through the halls, I couldn’t decide what to take. I wanted some sort of souvenir of this charlatan’s home but with no taste for disgusting art, it was tough. Then I saw it: a row of his books. The smoking gun.
“How much are the books?” I asked Linda, one of the attendants.
“Oh... you’re the only one who’s asked. Hang on,” she said.
Linda went to speak to her boss and returned.
“They’re three dollars!” she said, “What a bargain!”
“Mmm,” I said.
With sunglasses and two books in hand, I took one last tour through the house. Some sad teddy bears stared out at me, and a placard with the “Love is gentle, love is kind...” Bible verse hung limply against a wall. I scoured the kitchen one last time and remembered I needed a coffee tumbler. I opened the cupboards, and there one was. It was plastered with pictures of Kevin and his wife, she in a Danish dress. They kissed and stared fondly into each others’ eyes. It immediately made me uncomfortable. I had to have it.
“How much is this tumbler?” I asked Linda.
“Oh, that’s very special. That’s him and his wife. Are you a friend?”
“No,” I said, “But I, uh... I’ve read one of his books.”
“Twenty dollars,” she said.
I got in line, wondering how I would feel about all this after I left. I couldn’t quite parse whether I was helping him, or helping those he exploited, or neither. It was a fun and bizarre experience, standing in the center of justice being served, but also strangely sad, knowing that in the end no one was winning.
I saw Kevin’s friend Ted buy a huge painting for $800.
“Great deal!” said one of his friends.
I approached the cashier with my loot.
“How has the sale been?” I asked.
“Did you ever get to meet Mr. Trudeau?”
“Yes. Kevin, yes.”
“Was he nice?”
“Yes,” he said, “A true gentleman. You know, he’s in jail for those books you’re holding.”
“Yes, I know... Sad.” I said.
“Wait, are you selling the books?” came a booming voice from the entryway. The woman in charge waved her arms in the international sign for stop everything. “You can’t sell those,” she said, “the lawyers said we can’t.”
“Oh, dear,” said the cashier, looking at the books I had already paid for. “Well, we won’t sell any more.”
“Hmph,” said the woman in charge, returning to her guard at the entryway.
“Anyway,” the cashier said, “it’s a disagreement about supplements. The judge copped an attitude, and Kevin copped one back, and that’s why he’s in jail.”
“Sounds complicated,” I said.
“Yeah. I mean, he was no saint, but...”
I drove back to Los Angeles and took out my books, the last ones sold by the Trudeau estate. I flipped through the pages. “YOU CANNOT BELIEVE THE MEDIA” jumped out at me, followed by “WHY ARE THEY HIDING THIS FROM US?” I put the books down and picked up my coffee tumbler, plastered with picture of Mr. and Mrs. Trudeau, embracing each other and kissing. I studied it for a while, turned on my computer, and navigated to Google.
“Do vultures eat vultures?”, I typed.
 [Emphasis mine.] Trudeau, Kevin. The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, Alliance Publishing Group, 2007. pp. 90-91.
 [Emphasis still mine.] ibid.